Got a question for you:
Have you ever thought, “I reckon I could make a movie better than that. How hard can it be?”.
Would you do it? Go out there, suck up your pride and make a movie of your own?
Then I’m talking to the right people; my kind of people! Now, would you like to be privy to the harrowing tales of how a pair of insane optimists set out to make a no-budget independent feature film with over 50 cast, 100 extras, 50 crew and 30 locations? A blow-by-blow account of making Bound By Blue (how else do you think we could have pulled it off?) (please excuse the double innuendo).
This is the beginning of a different kind of how-to blog. I prefer to call it the how-not-to blog.
We aren’t big award winners or making millions in the industry. We don’t have family connections or mountains of experience in our prospective roles. My Producer, Kate Talbot, and I just wanted to make a feature film.
And in these posts we hope to pass on all of the mistakes that we made for any of you out there who are equally as insane as we are! I may as well start right now. Why don’t I begin by answering the single most common question I have been asked: Why did I make a feature-length film with no money?
Easy answer. Arrogance. I am an over-educated corporate cameraman with dreams of directing feature films.
In 2010, after attending the opening night film screening of one of Australia’s foremost festivals, I began ranting again (this seems to be a recurring issue with me). I told everyone who asked exactly what I thought of the film, and very quickly people stopped asking. “If that film had been dragged to life by the sheer determination of the filmmakers then I would give them a standing ovation. But to create such uninspired and poorly produced crap when you have money and support being handed to you is a joke.”
Believe it or not my wife got a little sick of hearing this over and again, particularly when I began to add “I could make a better film than that with my eyes shut.”
And so she told me what she thought of my opinions, “Do it. Stop complaining and do it.”
“A challenge” I thought. Gee, has my wife regretted saying that. And so began our epic battle against the overwhelming forces of money, logistics and encroaching insanity to make a big little film called Bound By Blue.
Alrighty. Who thinks that making a 70 minute film with no money isn’t challenging enough? Seriously. That’s the way I think. So, as ever, I decided to make it more complicated; everybody makes a no-budget movie about 2 guys in a room. If everybody does it I’ll do something different… how about lots of actors? And heaps of location? But not the inside of some student’s dorm room. What about big, fancy and expensive locations? And two cameras? And a bespoke score?
Hell, that’s not hard enough. I’m sure I can top this. Got it! If we’re going to make a film that nobody is going to watch then I need to ensure the steepest learning curve possible. My biggest fear is actors, and crossing the chasm of knowledge that I know lays between a DOP and a Director. So instead of a script I’ll just use one paragraph action plans, and then get the actors to improvise. But not in rehearsal. We’ll improv on set.
In addition, as a cinematographer I had often been on the receiving end of ridiculous requests from wannabe feature directors, “Yeah, so the shoot will be 6 days a week for 6 weeks. But you’ll get a DVD at the end. Maybe your landlord will take it in lieu of rent?” There seems to be a ludicrous expectancy that others should suffer so that one person can get their break. Not us. We will organise the schedule completely around the availability of the cast and crew; even it takes us 2 whole months.
Lastly I don’t have the money I need and I’m not going to fester away, waiting years to source the financing. So we will make a stoic pact not to pay anybody (have to be fair across the board) and to work with anything and everything that is given to us. Beggars can’t be choosers (love an old cliché!).
Yep, who needs enemies? (wow, these cliches are 2 for the price of 1)
It was one thing for Kate and I to set these ‘rules’ for making Bound By Blue; it was another to actually live by them. I can guarantee that our experience would not have been nearly as interesting or overwhelming if we had followed a more traditional route – in fact it’s a certainty that we made Kate’s job about a million times more difficult than it already was.
But that all comes later. Why don’t you join me back here to find out all about how we carefully crafted the story structure in the up-next second episode of The Un-Movie Experience (also known as – Who Let The Monkey Use My Typewriter?).